By Suzanne Potter
Nine conservation groups have just filed suit against the Trump administration, in an attempt to stop a plan to open up more than a million acres of public land in Central California to drilling and fracking.
The lawsuit claims the Bureau of Land Management violated the National Environmental Protection Act – or NEPA – by disregarding the potential impact of the new wells on public health, air quality and climate change.
Mark Rose, Sierra Club Nevada Program manager for the National Parks Association says the feds want to plow ahead anyway.
“Throughout this process, BLM really ignored our comments and really, just pushed through this plan without looking at all the different impacts,” says Rose. “Not only on our national parks, but on some of the most impacted communities in the nation when it comes to air quality.”
The lands in question stretch across Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties. The BLM recently announced it is lifting a moratorium on oil and gas leases in place since 2012, when a federal judge halted a similar plan over environmental concerns.
The Trump administration is already working to undermine NEPA, by revising guidelines that currently require the government to study a project’s long-term, cumulative impact on the environment. The administration’s view is that the U.S. needs to encourage more drilling, to create jobs and protect the nation’s energy independence.
It’s an argument that Mark Rose rejects.
“We are already dominating when it comes to our energy agenda,” says Rose. “And we don’t need additional acreage to be sold in environmental justice communities, or next door to national parks like Sequoia and Kings Canyon.”
If a judge doesn’t block the Central California plan – or a similar one that opens up drilling on public lands in the Monterey area – the BLM could start auctioning off leases in California within six months.
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